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Amazon Boycott Over Internet Sales Tax Gains Momentum

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Amazon is facing a boycott from a coalition of nonprofits in California over its opposition to an internet sales tax. The group is calling for users to cancel their accounts unless the world's largest internet retailer stops its attempts to force a repeal.

According to the Bay Citizen newspaper, the Seattle-based internet retailer has contributed $3m towards a group called More Jobs Not Taxes, aimed at repealing the state's newly introduced tax.

One of the groups behind the boycott, Think Before You Click CA, claims that the sales tax will bring in $200m in additional revenue, and encourage people to shop in local bricks-and-mortar stores instead of online.

However, the national anti-Amazon lobby on this issue isn't only made up of small businesses and non profits. According to a comment piece on the website Geekwire, the bulk of the money for the national pro-sales tax group Alliance for Main Street Fairness comes from Wal-Mart and other big-box retailers.

Over the past few years, a number of states have proposed or passed internet sales tax legislation, often termed by the media as 'Amazon laws.' The result has been that Amazon has either closed operations, severed affiliate relationships, or not built promised distribution centers, in those states, putting hundreds of people out of work. This has happened in Texas, Colorado, North Carolina and Rhode Island, among others, with The Memphis Business Journal reporting that Tennessee may introduce its own internet sales tax by the end of the year. (For more detailed, state-by-state information on Amazon's operations in relation to sales tax, see this graphic from The Wall Street Journal.)

Amazon has so far declined to comment on the boycott. It's not the first time they've faced such a measure, with other boycotts being called for over its hosting of Wikileaks and then its subsequent removal of the site, as well as the questionable content of certain books on sale via its website. However, arguments for and against an internet sales tax in California, the home of Silicon Valley, are getting particularly heated, and this boycott could yet prove significant.

In the past, Amazon has called instead for the introduction of a streamlined federal sales tax, with its CEO Jeff Bezos claiming in comments at Consumer Reports' headquarters this June that "we’ve been insisting on this for 10 years."

According to their report filed with the State of Washington, Amazon spent $630,000 on lobbying federal government in the first three months of this year. That included an undisclosed amount spent on "issues related to the taxation of remote sales."

As yet, it is unclear if the internet retailer is lobbying for the introduction of streamlined sales tax with the same vigor and financial investment as they are currently applying to repeal the online sales tax in California.

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Filed by Andrew Losowsky